The Implications of Childhood Oral Hygiene on Overall Health

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry | 12.07.2019

It happens everywhere. 

Temporary means disposable. 

If you’re staying at a hotel, you’re not as worried about making your bed before you start your day. A rental car isn’t going to be waxed and shinned like a collector. And Timmy’s coffee isn’t going to be savoured like your Orange Triple-Mocha-Frappuccino. 

It is no wonder why parents and adolescents struggle to see the importance behind oral hygiene and non-permanent, AKA, baby teeth. They aren’t going to be there forever, so what harm can come from a cavity or two? 

While the visible surface stains and cavities might disappear with baby teeth, the damage they cause can last a lifetime! 

Below, we will look at what the biological purpose is behind baby teeth, and what short term and long term detrimental health effects poor dental hygiene can create.

Why Do We Need Baby Teeth?

Our baby teeth are spectacular little specimens. Humans, like most mammals, are diphyodonts. Meaning that we grow two separate sets of teeth

Baby teeth emerge when our skulls are small and still developing. Working to establish oral muscles (chewing, spitting, slurping, etc.) and speech development, our first set of teeth have an important job. 

Furthermore, while small, baby teeth still create the much-needed room in our jaws for our permanent teeth. Studies have shown that in the case of premature removal of a baby tooth (surgical or accidental) can lead to a crowded mouth and other development issues.

Childhood Dental Carries (Cavities)

Baby teeth, while relatively strong, can’t compete with the enamelled protection our secondary set provides our mouth. For this reason, baby teeth are far more susceptible to the threat of cavities

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, cavities (or carries) are holes that develop on your teeth. Caused by acid damage due to bacteria, such as plaque, cavities create an opening to the most inner layers of our teeth. 

And much like the Death Star, if there is a hole, you should probably fix it

This is because deterioration doesn’t stop at baby teeth. Quietly, underneath the gum line, adult teeth are forming, getting ready for their reveal. It is here where bacteria and decay can seep and cause lifetime issues.

If access is granted through childhood dental carries, abscesses can form inside teeth and/or gums. These extreme infections can deteriorate developing adult teeth if not dealt with immediately, and in rare cases can affect the jaw bone. Immediate symptoms include tooth pain, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and fevers. 

Periodontitis and the Jaw Bone

As mentioned, tooth decay and mouth bacteria don’t know what they’re attacking. So, while baby teeth will eventually fall out, damage done to those teeth can carry forward. 

One of the worst types of damage to occur is bone loss of the jaw. Caused by chronic periodontitis, bacteria gradually eat away at surrounding alveolar bone and ligaments, reducing the density and strength of the jaw.

Bone loss can also be caused by the removal or misalignment of teeth. This is because the alveolar bone needs stimuli through chewing to keep it rigid and dense. 

While this issue is a lot more prominent with individuals who wear dentures, it is entirely possible for childhood teeth loss or misalignment to cause a reduction in bone density. 

Cardiac Implications

Heart issues are quite well-documented diseases. And to no surprise! In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death and accounted for over 51,500 deaths in 2015. 

However, most people don’t associate childhood with heart disease. The reality of it is, most cardiac issues stem from long-term “persecution” of the heart (for the lack of a better word). 

Not taking proper care of your health during your formative years not only causes damage to your organs, but it also increases the likelihood of contracting heart diseases later in life. 

A recent study in April of 2019 concluded a following of 755 participants from childhood to adulthood. The examination looked to uncover the associations between childhood oral infections with cardiovascular risk factors and the results were not surprising. 

Judging on the presence of four signs of oral infections (bleeding, gum pockets, cavities, and dental fillings), children would be examined for any or all of these symptoms. 

The children with all four signs of poor oral health were found to be 95% more likely to develop heart damage known as subclinical atherosclerosis. On the other end of the spectrum, children who didn’t sport any signs of oral disease were at lower risk for high blood pressure, high BMI, and also sported lower glucose and cholesterol throughout the entire follow-up period. 

Short-Term Health

You don’t have to spend a lifetime with poor dental hygiene to reap what you sow. Plenty of short-term health implications exist when one avoids proper oral care. 

A Toronto study looked to uncover the implications on what they determined an overall picture of health. Taking both social and emotional (mental) health into consideration.

Through this experiment, Doctors were able to group four (4) areas of short-term health. These included:

  1. Oral Symptoms (Pain)
  2. Functional Limitations (Difficulty Eating/Drinking)
  3. Emotional Well-being (Avoiding Smiling, Embarrassment, etc.)
  4. Social Well-being (Comments or Bullying)

Establish Good Habits Early

There is almost an infinite amount of complications that can stem from poor dental hygiene. Without establishing the habits early in your child’s life, it can be difficult for them to change course. 

If your child shows signs of poor dental hygiene, we can help! Check out our parent’s guide to dental decay in children. Or if you’re worried about your child’s health, contact us immediately! 

We have the resources and experience to help establish the importance of good oral hygiene. Treehouse Dental Care is here for you! 

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